The Jews Who Invented (And Continue To Reinvent) Fashion

Meet the Bloggers Who Are Recreating the Shmattesphere

Funky Cold Medine: Leandra Medine’s blog “The Man Repeller” was named one of Time Magazine’s 25 best blogs in 2012.
Courtesy of Leandra Medine
Funky Cold Medine: Leandra Medine’s blog “The Man Repeller” was named one of Time Magazine’s 25 best blogs in 2012.

By Jason Diamond

Published March 04, 2013, issue of March 08, 2013.
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It started out as a joke, but in 2012, Medine’s site was named to Time’s 25 Best Blogs, and Elle called her one of the top 10 fashion personalities of the year.

While Jewish fashion darlings are currently making livings off being Internet tastemakers for those who want an idea of what it takes to be stylish, most admit that their interest in dressing well was something that had little to do with their heritage. “Looking at vintage pictures of my father and going through his wardrobe with the discerning eye I have now gives me more of an appreciation than I once had,” Schlossman said. But “I’m not sure I would consider anybody in my family incredibly stylish or fashionable.”

When I pressed Blaut about whether her family has any roots in the garment industry, she replied, “Not at all.” While Blaut and Schlossman’s answers might make it seem like a coincidence that so many of the most popular fashion bloggers on the Internet happen to be Jewish, when these digital trajectories are lined up next to the long and storied history of American Jews and their continued involvement in the world of American fashion, it all seems like part of an ongoing narrative that tells the story of both the American fashion industry and the Jewish American experience.

Mordechai Rubinstein’s journey to menswear fame sounds almost like something out of a Sholem Aleichem story. Growing up Orthodox, Rubinstein decided to forgo a lifetime studying holy books and dishing out talmudic advice for the shmatte business. He has held several jobs in the fashion industry, from public relations maven at Jack Spade to an associate marketing editor position at the short-lived Men’s Vogue.

And since 2008, when he started his blog Mister Mort, Rubinstein has snapped photos all over the globe of those people in the streets whom he deems worthy of his lens. His choice in subjects almost calls to mind the unique characters that Diane Arbus would find interesting, not the perfect cheekbones and slender figures that traditional fashion photographers seek out. Be it an older African-American gentleman with a patchy goatee wearing a bicycle cap, a weathered blue button-up shirt and a pair of chinos, or an emergency medical technician wearing white winter cargos, Rubinstein’s choice in subjects is unique, but so is his ability to transform any of his subjects into a fashion model.

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Rubinstein wears his Jewishness on the sleeve of whatever vintage shirt he’s sporting; his Twitter account is constantly full of pictures of stylish Hasidim, heavy use of “Oy” as a hashtag and even an Instagram photo from his sister’s Hanukkah party. One post featured a photography subject taking his fashion inspiration from the Hasidic men of Brooklyn’s Williamsburg. Rubinstein’s reaction: “Gevalt! Egad! First thing that came to mind when I saw Isadore with his fedora and black-and-white get-up, I was immediately taken back to my yeshiva days when walking around town. A bokhur [a yeshiva student] had to have his hat and jacket on or else!”

Jason Diamond is the founder of Vol. 1 Brooklyn and deputy editor of Flavorpill.


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